The Tall Chief property was home to one of the earliest dairies in King County.

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KING County began its visionary Farmland Preservation Program more than 30 years ago. In 2014, the county redoubled its commitment to farmers and farmland through King County Executive Dow Constantine’s Local Food Initiative.

One of the most exciting goals to come out of this initiative is to add 400 new acres of food production per year for the next ten years. As farmers and farmland-preservation advocates, we applaud this goal as it will protect farmland and keep farmers on the land.

Puget Sound has lost more than 60 percent of its farmland since 1950, and development pressure isn’t letting up. Fortunately, we have a strong ally in King County, whose farmland preservation program works to protect the farmland we have left.

King County’s current proposal to sell nearly 200 acres of Snoqualmie Valley land to a neighboring dairy farmer is welcome news.

This land, the Tall Chief property, has an interesting past — and a bright future.

The property was home to one of the earliest dairy farms in King County. More than half a century ago, the dairy farm closed and the land was converted to a golf course, which operated until just a few years ago. Even more recently, a permit was approved to subdivide the land and build 18 large homes.

Heidi Eisenhour is Pacific Northwest director for the American Farmland Trust. Andrew Stout is chairman and co-founder of Full Circle Farm near North Bend.
Heidi Eisenhour is Pacific Northwest director for the American Farmland Trust. Andrew Stout is chairman and co-founder of Full Circle Farm near North Bend.

This action would have brought the sprawl of suburbia to the doorstep of one of King County’s largest remaining agricultural areas. It would have brought more development pressure to local farmers and their land.

The county stepped forward in 2013 and purchased the Tall Chief property using conservation and open-space funds.

The county removed most of the overlying development rights from the property, which not only reduces the cost to a prospective buyer, but also strictly limits what kinds of activities can occur on the land. In short: farmland for farming, forever.

Selling this property to the Keller family means the land — after more than a half-century’s pause — will soon again be producing food. This is something to celebrate.

And that’s what this is all about: Getting more farms and more farmers on more of King County’s farmland.

In order to create a strong and diversified agricultural economic base, we need farms of all sizes, growing an array of crops, and selling their products to local wholesale and retail markets.

This proposal should be cause for celebration throughout King County, not just in the Snoqualmie Valley — where a farming family that spans five generations will expand their operation using sound stewardship principles and a commitment to the land that most of us can’t even imagine.